Sunday, 29 April 2012

Closing up and moving on...

This blog was created to support an assignment for the Digital Culture course, but it became a springboard to much more. Together with my assignment for the Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning course, this has led to my dissertation project (running to March 2013).

So, to close out this blog, I have reviewed the actions set last year to see where I am now:
  • I am now a Carbon Conversations facilitator and am in discussion with Sustainable Haddington to facilitate carbon conversation groups in my local area
  • Carshare with Gavin at least twice a week - currently working from home when I can instead :)
  • Allotment at Thistly Cross in Dunbar now entering year 2
  • Make more time for nature and me - all the time!
  • Read more about human ecology and sustainable education - a core part of my dissertation
  • I caught up with my garden photo diary on Facebook, but now experimenting with blipfoto and flickr to get images out into the wide world...
  • The Easter Bush veg garden development is underway - just surveying now for members
  • Joined The Schumacher Society and now also subscribed to Resurgence and Earthlines
  • Still being crafty and now sharing the photos too :)
To follow my progress, please visit my dissertation blog and/or my website.

Thank you for reading :)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Appendix – Actions!

Perfect timing for New Year’s Resolutions – instead of giving things up, taking action instead:

Scattering Seeds - and References!

“[T]he end product of a lesson is not the object of a lesson”
(Winkelmann, 2005)

As with Greer (2009), I’m not claiming any of this as the “truth”, but hope that it may inspire others to reflect on their passions and actions. This blog will continue, providing me with a chance to reflect on more of what I have read, respond to your comments and learn from your experiences.

This little flower is just a small part of the process... but “small is beautiful” (Schumacher, 1973).

References from the posts so far can be accessed here

In Bloom

“[T]ransliteracy deliberately refuses to presuppose any kind of offline/online divide; indeed it posits a complete interpellation of one by the other within everyday life”
(Thomas et al., 2007)

Life in the ecotechnic age requires awareness of our “interconnectedness with life and all other beings”. We do our best to act responsibly, but we don’t yet know the implications of those actions for all of our connections (Angus et al., 2001).

In the UK, the Government’s plans for increasingly localised responsibility (DirectGov, 2010) echoes that seen in online environmental activism, individualisation of actions feel more achievable, within a person’s immediate control, rather than wider global concerns (Pickerill, 2003). We are told to “think global, act local”, but should we not find a balance in this as with everything else?

As much as our home gives us a sense of place, Pickerill (2003) suggests that online “cross-movement, cross-cultural” interaction can also lead to a change in an individual’s sense of identity. Environmental issues are equally important for those in developing countries (Dunlap & Mertig, 1995), people with a stronger connection to the traditional skills and knowledge that we in the West are in danger of losing. We have much to learn but more to remember.

While we are overconsuming the Earth’s resources, we are also overconsuming our own. We need to learn “better” not learn “more” – “authentic education... rooted in place and tradition” (Sterling, 2009).

Roots and Shoots

“[T]he diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious.”
(Macy, 1995)

For every environmentally-minded person, there is a key memory, a “place of initiation” (Louv, 2010). For me, it was childhood summers spent in Wexford. We had a mobile home and my mother would open the door each morning and send my brother and I off on our adventures. Dinner would be on the table when the clock struck six, but other than that, our day was our own and we could wander where we wished. Sometimes we would play with each other and with friends, but often I went off on my own, wandering down country lanes, picking berries, listening to the sea and the hum of insects, watching rabbits, in a world of my own, with space to think and dream.

McIntosh (2008) speaks of the three aspects of engagement – heart, hand and head – but to begin with a sense of place is required. Our sense of place, human and environment, culture and nature –where we feel rooted in all aspects of our lives. My sense of values comes from my life experiences, my family and friends, many of whom I communicate with via Facebook, my communication to a global “audience”. These connections lead to my sense of responsibility.
Sterling (2009) urges us to consider, as educators, how we encourage “response-ability” – our ability to respond to the needs of today’s students. Are we enabling them with positive skills for this world, for the uncertain future, are we creating a “meaningful” curriculum? We not only need to consider our “home” community, but our educational community too – putting “heart, soul and spirit back into our thinking and practice” to engender sustainable education (Sterling, 2009; p19).

A list of the actions I plan to take are in the appendix post – the small goals I have set myself as a result of this work.


“[An] activist is one who takes any form of action, ranging from direct physical acts to minute lifestyle adjustments, and also includes simply voicing concerns or opinion”
(Pickerill, 2003)

The internet is a vast source of information – steps to take for a more “eco-conscious” lifestyle, connections with like-minded groups, survival tips for a post-oil existence. I find myself easily lost; reading, worrying and not doing.

Looking at my online eco-connections, I can see the seeds of plans, helping charities and “growing my own”. I am “embodied” in these places, they are important to me, but what am I doing? Financial and vocal support, communicating with like-minded people, voting with my mouse, what am I achieving?

Writing can be viewed as a “social action” (Winkelmann, 1995) – writing this essay, this blog, sharing my experiences may help to inspire others. Learning from the example of others, people from different cultures and backgrounds is incredibly important and inspiring. But are these connections too “thin” without face-to-face interaction, being literally grounded (Pickerill, 2003)? I can admire the work of the guerilla gardeners who share their stories on the Facebook group, but if I do not take action in my local community, what use does my armchair gardening serve?

Pickerill (2003) reports that movements use both social networks and “moral shocks” to encourage recruitment to causes. Monroe (2003) highlights a global view about the role of humans on the planet, belief about environmental threats and a belief that actions will result in a positive outcome as being key in the development of environmental literacy.

However, Macy (1995) says that more reports about how bad a situation is in can lead to a sense of powerlessness and frustration - “there is nothing I can do about it” (p248). She goes on to say that we need to face our grief to free us to find creative solutions. My cherry tree reflection is my “despair work”. Sterling (2009) agrees that too much information is disempowering “without a deeper and broader learning process taking place”.

All this is applicable to my life, but I need to take a holistic view of myself, the foundation of my global view of environmental issues. Regenerating community requires that we start with ourselves (McIntosh, 2008), but I see dualism in my actions between work and home. Why “work/life” balance? Is work only “life” if it is unbalanced – can’t the two be integrated better?

Can my learning and teaching in and of themselves become “activism”?

Setting the Seed

“”We” have nothing to lose but “our” selves”
(Badminton, 2003)

Edwards (2010) suggests that “in enacting the post-human, we move beyond the concept of learning as a purpose of education more towards a purpose of responsible experimenting”. We can’t reduce the “unpredictability” of the future (Edwards, 2010) but we can rather gather those “things that matter”.

I was inspired by Angus et al.’s (2001) work on cyborg pedagogy – encouraging students to “take personally the issues they study”. Educators can choose a topic for the students to investigate (Demetrious, 2004; Larsen and Faden, 2008) or can leave the student to choose something that resonates with them (Angus et al., 2001) – the latter a process that, for educator and student, can feel both risky and exciting (Edwards, 2010).

This reflective process gives a feeling of “ownership” to the student (Winkelmann 1995), they are “actively collaborating” (Usher & Edwards, 1998), it is “transformative” learning (Sterling, 2009). There is a “redefinition of the role of teacher” (Usher & Edwards, 1998) – there still remains a guiding, encouraging role, support structures if assistance is needed (Angus et al., 2001; Winkelmann, 1995).

Greer (2009) encourages us to think of ourselves as “cultural conservers” – find our focus, our passion, that aspect of our culture and tradition that we value most, work with simplicity and share our experiences, teaching others who come after us following the same path. Drawing on our culture, we are practising a living heritage not preserving a dead one, and in the process, growing toward the future.

If the process of learning excites us, holds our attention, “connects” with us, we remember it better (Angus et al., 2001) and can draw on it when the time is right. This “transformative” learning is “one that values and sustains people and nature... more holistic, participative, and practical” (Sterling, 2009).

Preparing the Soil

“[C]omposting is... a bridge beyond the industrial age to the ecotechnic future”
(Greer, 209; p109)

The Earth is at the heart of our existence . We are encouraged to “save the Earth”, our responsibility as “nature’s stewards”. What we need to “save” is ourselves, the intricate web of systems that makes this planet suitable for human life. If we don’t, Nature will fill the vacuum we leave with something else (Norman, in Louv, 2010; p296).

It is difficult to comprehend these complex interactions, so instead of looking at the Earth, I’ll start with the land, the soil.

The title of this blog is courtesy of Alastair McIntosh. He, in turn, was gifted the alliterative form by Satish Kumar of Schumacher College (McIntosh, 2008; p49). Soul, soil and society form the triune basis of community. Before we start to think about regeneration on a global scale, we first need to think about it on a local scale; before we do that, we need to reflect on our individual connection to the land.

My first nature tale concerns my love of earthworms, my connection to the soil. As a child, I would spend hours standing in the mud talking. My mother at first thought I was talking to myself, and later found I was talking to the worms. I’m not sure which worried her more. That love of worms continued, and one of the most relaxing and de-stressing activities for me is going out and talking to the worms in my worm-bin. Worms consume organic matter, drawing it into the earth from the surface, mixing and breaking it down. The result is like gold, a rich humus and a worm “tea” that makes a fantastic plant food. By caring for my worms, I’m caring for the associated microbes that are invisible to my naked eye. Using that soil to enrich my pots, my garden, I’m restoring an ecological balance to my mini-landscape. A simple action, immensely satisfying, and one which everyone can try.

Gathering my Tools

“[M]y dream is a version of the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of... technologies..., that understands human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity, one on which we depend for our continued survival.”
(Hayles, 1999)

Ethnographers occupy a “hybrid reality” (Koirala et al., 2006), act as a “boundary-crosser” (Reed-Danahay, cited in Dyson, 2007, p38), which seemed appropriate for this topic. This is a first step for me in the study of human ecology and sustainable education, requiring me to “immerse [my]self in, living and practicing it as well as studying it” (McIntosh 2008; p30).

Autoethnography allows me to situate myself as the student: what does posthuman responsibility mean to me, how do I learn and how can that lead to positive action.

While my stories will be incorporated into the blog, I have also posted them to the Experience Project (EP), for me, like messages in a bottle sent out into the cyber-ocean.

It’s always good to have an appropriate metaphor (Dyson, 2007), and so each section follows a step in the growth of a flower. This topic has been dormant in me for a long time, now it is ready to germinate.

Choosing my Plot

“Am I the one who is sitting on the stone, or am I the stone on which he is sitting?”
(C.G. Jung; Sabini, 2008)

This essay started life as a reflection of Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (2000). Trying to make sense of her work in my own life resulted in the presentation below drawing out themes she raised in her work.

The “posthuman” is a biotech chimera, blurring the boundaries between the dualisms I encountered while researching this work (nature/culture, online/offline, work/life, global/local, transmissive/transformative, utopia/dystopia) (Haraway, 2000; Sterling, 2009; Usher & Edwards, 1998).

What are the implications of the term “post-“? (Badminton, 2003) Can the “post-human” think beyond “human”, cease to think only of “our” selves and instead think of others (humans and non-humans, places and plants)?

What are the implications of “responsibility”? Is Western education enabling us to be “response-able”? (Sterling, 2009)

We stand on the threshold, each of us individually more than the sum of our parts, Haraway’s “mosaic”. Our “posthuman responsibility” is what we choose to do with the gifts we have been given. What am I doing with mine?